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Advanced Placement Programs Grow in U.S. High Schools

This is Shep O'Neal with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Sixty percent of high schools in the United States now offer college-level work through Advanced Placement courses. Two times as many students take A.P. courses today compared to ten years ago.

The College Board administers the program, along with others including the SAT college entrance test. The non-profit organization has a new report out that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Advanced Placement.

The program now offers thirty-five courses in twenty subjects. These include art, biology, calculus and history, as well as language, music, physics and psychology. Classes prepare students to take A.P. exams. Last year, more than one million students worldwide took more than two million A.P. exams.

The results are in the form of a number from number from one to five. Five represents excellent college work. Three is average.

Most American colleges and universities give credit to students who receive a three or better on their A.P. exams. That means they can start with higher level college classes than students who did not do as well or did not take the tests.

Students can take an A.P. exam even without the coursework. Each test costs about eighty dollars.

Among minority students, Latinos are well-represented in Advanced Placement classes in many states. African-Americans are not. Black students are more than thirteen percent of the student population. But they are only six percent of those who take A.P. exams.

The College Board notes that studies support the value of the Advanced Placement program. These include the most recent Trends in International Math and Science Study. It shows that in two thousand three, the United States was near the bottom among sixteen countries on a calculus test. But the American students who had taken A.P. calculus did as well as the top students on the test.

President Bush wants to increase the number of A.P. math and science students. And he has proposed training seventy thousand more teachers over five years to teach them.

Three hundred eighty thousand American students currently take A.P. math and science exams. The goal is to increase that to one and one-half million by two thousand twelve.

Details of the new report can be found on the Web at

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at This is Shep O'Neal.